Bike lane basics: Explaining Minneapolis markings


From block to block, bike lanes seem to change — from solid lines, to dotted lines, to no lines at all. It doesn’t end there. Last September, the Minneapolis Department of Public Works began installing green bike lanes and green shared lanes. As bicycling has become more popular, over the past two years the city has begun implementing new symbols and rules. While some people find them confusing, the new markings actually are intended to help make the streets safer.

Most of the confusion comes from what appears to be an inconsistency in the green marking, which sometimes appears in a bike lane out of nowhere, and other times stretches out the entire street. These markings signal two different things. (Click on PDF of all bike lane instructions from City of Minneapolis below.)

The first is a green bike lane, which highlights locations where motorists merge across or turn across a bike lane. This is why a green marking may suddenly appear out of nowhere on a bike lane. It’s letting bikers know to use caution and check for cars, as well as letting drivers know they should also look out for bikers. Green bike lanes are currently located on 15th Avenue SE by the University of Minnesota, on East 16th Street south of downtown, on 1st and Blaisdell Avenues in south Minneapolis, and on North 7th Street by Target Field.

The second green marking, which often stretches across entire streets, signals green shared lanes. These are highlighted versions of shared lanes, or sharrows (derived from shared and arrows). Just like sharrows, they indicate that the lane is exclusive to neither motorists nor bicycles. While motorists must stay out of bike lanes, they may drive right over a green lane. Green shared lanes are currently marked on Bryant Avenue South between West Lake and 40th Streets, and between W 49th and 50th Streets They are also located on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. (Sharrows can be seen in #6 and #7 in the illustration below.) 

While the green bike lanes have proven to increase safety, according to Minneapolis Department of Public Works Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator, Shaun Murphy, the green shared lanes are still under evaluation. After two years of collecting data, Murphy said, the city will report its findings to the Federal Highway Administration and determine whether or not the lanes are effectively increasing safety and how to proceed from there.

The feedback so far has been mixed. Anywhere from “‘Finally, I can bike down Bryant safely’ to ‘What is going on here?'” said Shaun Murphy.

Daniel Murphy, who works for Jimmy Johns in Dinkytown spends most of the week biking around the city. He believes the green lanes are a good start but would like to see even more warning signs to alert traffic about bikers, especially in trouble areas.

“Like University and Church Street [SE],” said Daniel Murphy, “I almost get hit there on a daily basis.”

The project is due for another year of evaluation, but Shaun Murphy is optimistic about the results of the green shared lanes.

“The general impression is that they’re a useful traffic device,” said Shaun Murphy. “How we use them might change.”